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Living with another person is never easy, but it may be a necessity when you simply can’t afford a house or apartment on your own. A roommate will have a big impact on your everyday life. You’re sharing the same space, after all, so you’re going to be around each other a lot.
No one wants to dread the idea of going home. You can avoid a lot of headaches by carefully selecting a roommate, knowing how to avoid problems and conflicts and knowing how to deal with problems if they pop up.
Where to Look for Roommates
You might find your roommate in a number of different ways, including:
- Referrals from friends
- Local classified ads
- School, church and grocery store bulletin boards
Choosing Your Roommates
Finding a roommate you get along with will lessen the stress involved in sharing your living space and household expenses with another person. It’s important to talk to potential roommates and ask a lot of questions. Carefully observe the person during your interview. Behaviors you notice during the interview can give you insight into the person’s character.
Some things to look for:
- On time for interview
- Compatible personality
- Neat appearance
- Polite behavior
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things important to you, including:
- Are you employed and for how long?
- What’s your schedule?
- How’s you health?
- Will you be having lots of friends over?
- Do you have any pets?
- Do you have references (former roommates or landlords)?
- Will you sign a roommate agreement?
Often, roommate disputes start with poor communication or a mismatch of expectations. Most of these disputes can be avoided by laying out simple guidelines and expectations at the beginning of the living arrangement in a roommate agreement.
It can outline rent and other payment responsibilities, a system of chores, how much notice is to be given before moving out and any other issues you want to include. It should include:
- Date of agreement
- Names of roommates
- Address of property
- Signatures of all roommates
Other items your agreement might include are limited only by your imagination, but you may want to consider including:
- Portion of rent and utilities to be paid by each roommate and due date
- Total amount of security deposit paid and portion of that deposit paid by each roommate
- Agreement that each roommate will pay for any damages that they or their guests cause
- Agreement that each roommate will continue to pay his or her share of the rent for a certain period of time if he or she needs to move out before the end of the lease period unless the landlord allows a replacement roommate
- Who will find, interview and decide on any new roommates
- Agreement that each roommate will pay a specific share of the cost of any repairs, improvements or other costs due under the terms of the lease
- Any house rules regarding pets
- Whether smoking is allowed and where
- Rules about drinking and drug use
- Rules about late hours and noise
- Whether there will be overnight guests and how often
- Whether grocery shopping and cooking duties will be shared
- Cleaning responsibilities and schedules
- Whether food items in the kitchen are to be shared
- Whether personal items including dishes, utensils, kitchen appliances and toiletries are to be shared
Remember, the roommate agreement is an agreement among the roommates. It’s not binding on the landlord. The lease is the agreement between tenants who signed the lease and the landlord.
Next, Settling Minor Disputes
Settling Minor Disputes
Even though you have an agreement, disputes may arise. The secret to a quick resolution is communication. Speak up if you’re upset by something your roommate did or didn’t do, and the same if it was your roommate’s guest who upset you. Calmly explain why you’re upset. Be specific and let your roommate know how to keep the peace in the future.
Dealing with the Landlord
All roommates should sign the rental agreement. That makes each of you individually responsible for paying the entire rent each month. The landlord can take you and your roommate to court if the rent goes unpaid.
You’ll need your landlord’s approval to add a roommate if you’ve already signed a lease and moved in. You may even need to sign an entirely new lease. Your landlord will likely want to check your potential roommate’s credit record and get an additional security deposit. Also, you may see an increase in rent to reflect the additional person living in the space.
If Your Roommate Violates the Lease
If your roommate doesn’t pay the rent, damages your place or makes too much noise, the landlord can hold everyone responsible.
All tenants who signed the lease are responsible for the rent for the entire duration of the lease whether they live there or not. If a roommate moves out and doesn’t pay a share of the rent, you (and the other roommates) must pay the rent in full or face eviction.
You can try to collect rent from the nonpaying roommate. Try working it out in a friendly way. If that doesn’t work, consider small claims court.
You Can’t Evict!
You can’t evict your roommate yourself. You can, however, make it easier for your landlord to evict your roommate. Talk to your landlord if getting your roommate to leave is the only way to solve your problem.
Protect yourself, too. Sometimes roommates become violent during the eviction process. You may need to file an anti-harassment or domestic violence order to protect yourself.
Having a roommate can be – and often is – an enjoyable experience. You may make a lifelong friend. So choose wisely and know how to avoid and resolve problems.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Is it safe to find a roommate over the internet?
- Can I be sued for discrimination when choosing a roommate?
- What can I do if my roommate violated the lease and then moved to another state?